Monday, October 14, 2013

Days of the Week: Why Tel Aviv Is Thoroughly Confusing Me

One might expect more from someone who's done as much traveling as I have over the course of the last two decades, since 1993, the year I had my first out-of-the-country experience: an off-site in Bermuda with some of my colleagues at People magazine.

"What? They drive on the left side of the road here? I haven't seen that before."

Bermuda might as well have been another planet because of the peculiar driving habits there, an experience that I repeated one year later when I returned to my birthplace, the U.S. Virgin Islands, for the first time since I was 4 years old.

After at least a dozen trips to London I still hadn't become accustomed to left-side driving and didn't get used to it until I spent two and a half years based in Melbourne and Bangkok, where left-side driving applies. Now I'm such a leftie that when I was in Buenos Aires earlier this year, I kept trying to go up on the left-side escalator, and in rightie Tel Aviv, I'm always walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk, to the left, to the left.

Though I now think mostly in terms of Metric, I still haven't built up an immunity to culture shock, a talent for learning foreign languages (I tackled Spanish only because I absolutely had to), or a habit of picking up local slang and incorporating it into my everyday speech. (I may sometimes text "tomoz" for "tomorrow" because it's shorter, but I refuse to use "arvo" for "afternoon" or start calling everybody "mate"!)

So I had absolutely no reason to expect that I would so easily become accustomed to the forward shift in the days of the week brought on by Shabbat (aka, Saturday, or, technically, sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, which is treated the way Sunday is outside of Israel and in the predominantly Muslim and Christian Israeli city of Nazareth). But there I was, days before my first Shabbat, already thinking of Monday as Tuesday, Tuesday as Wednesday and so on, until Saturday, which felt exactly like Sunday, only lazier.

By the time that first Shabbat rolled around, I was already thinking exactly like I do on Sunday everywhere else in the world and accepting the new days dynamic. Everything's closed today? Annoying, but okay. Friday and Saturday were the weekend? I can live with that. The Mamas and the Papas' "Monday Monday" would be the perfect soundtrack to Sunday, which, technically, is just another manic Monday? Got it.

But now, after three weeks, confusion has set in, for in my mind, I'm not only thinking of the days here as their equivalent days everywhere else, but I've also begun to think that it's actually the equivalent day. I keep forgetting what day it is. When I woke up this morning, Sunday morning, I thought of it as Monday. During my morning jog, people were starting to head to work as if it were Monday. If yesterday felt sort of melancholy in that only-on-a-Sunday way, today the world felt resigned to the weekdays ahead, just like on Mondays.

The real Wednesday, not the
one I keep thinking Tuesday is.
I almost missed a fun night out because of my confusion. You see, today, Sunday, someone invited me to Lima Lima, a Monday night party here in Tel Aviv, one that I went to two weeks ago and enjoyed immensely. "Ah, that's too bad," I muttered to myself, instinctively thinking tonight was Lima Lima night, because, you know, I thought it was Monday afternoon at the time. Unfortunately, I have a Skype interview at 7am tomorrow morning, which means tonight my bed time will fall even earlier than usual. I can't turn on the camera on my laptop with big bags under my eyes.

Had I thought things out completely, I would have remembered that my Skype interview was on Monday and panicked. I might have mistakenly thought I'd missed my Skype interview because it is scheduled for Monday at 7am, and at what I subconsciously thought was 7am on Monday, I was starting my morning run along the beach. But although I'd been living today as a Monday in my head, I never actually took the time out to name the day in my head.

I'm not sure what snapped me back to reality, but I recovered from my cluelessness before I had a chance to panic or miss a really fun party. Today might function as a Monday here in Tel Aviv, but everybody still calls it Sunday when speaking in English, which means that both my Skype interview and Lima Lima will be tomorrow, the real Monday, which will only feel like Tuesday. Looks like I can fit in both, after all.

Hopefully, I'll get this days-of-the-week thing straight in my head soon. I'm leaving Tel Aviv next Sunday, which, though it'll arrive in the spirit of a Monday, will still be one week from today, a Sunday that only feels like a Monday. I wouldn't want to mix things up in my head and try to go to the airport on Saturday, Shabbat, thinking it's Sunday, the day of my scheduled departure. The airports are closed on Saturday.

But then, I'm not leaving Tel Aviv by plane but rather, by bus, to Jerusalem. Public transportation doesn't run on Shabbat, though, so who knows how I'd get there next Saturday, if I was thinking of it as Sunday? So it looks like I won't be going anywhere, even if I mix up my days again.

Thankfully, the other two invitations I've received for the coming week, came with dates (October 16 and 18), not days attached. I've saved the dates, and I shouldn't have any problem keeping them straight. I've always been so much better with numbers than with names.
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